The Association of Deputy District Attorney's was mentioned in both Los Angeles's legal newspapers Friday March 18, 2011, in connection with the loss of a lawsuit; Burke v. Ipsen, reported at 189 Cal.App.4th 801.
The Los Angeles Daily Journal published brief details of the loss of an appeal by the ADDA of Judge Chalfant's trial court ruling, quoting ADDA President Hyatt Seligman comment that the $100,000 loss was "a hurdle, but we'll overcome it."
But while the Daily Journal article was short on details, the Los Angeles Metropolitan News Enterprise article revealed the full extent of what some might say are shocking details of this case.
The ADDA had appealed Judge Chalfant's original ruling that the ADDA had "violated the California Corporations Code and its own bylaws." ADDA member Peter Burke brought the lawsuit to challenge what he believed to be unlawful changes to the ADDA bylaws and its failure to hold an election. Judge Chalfant agreed with Burke after trial, and issued a writ of mandate ordering the union to hold an election for its board and declaring the amended bylaws were invalid. Additionally, Judge Chalfant awarded Burke costs believed to be in the region of $60,000.
Having lost at trial and being saddled with paying Burke's legal fees (as well as the ADDA's own legal fees) the ADDA decided to appeal Judge Chalfant's ruling. No explanation was given as to the legal theory behind the ADDA's decision to appeal the ruling, leading some to speculate that the ADDA was simply gambling on Burke not having the resources or stamina to fight the appeal.
If it was a gamble, it was a bad one, perhaps even a reckless one. In the absence of any clear statement from President Seligman, one can only assume that the costs of the original trial and the appeal all have to be paid by members' dues - $160,000 in Burke's legal fees, and the unknown costs of the ADDA's own attorneys.
The Met News reported that "the ADDA had collected approximately $20,000 a month in dues, over a two year period, while the case was pending." However, Judge Chalfant noted that the ADDA had introduced “no evidence of what’s been done with that money.”
ADDA President Hyatt Seligman told the Met News that 'he was “extremely disappointed” with Chalfant’s ruling yesterday, but vowed: “We’ll overcome this, no matter what happens to our finances.” He said the union will “have to seek an alternative remedy,” but declined to elaborate on how that will occur.'
Despite the tone of President Seligman's statement, the lack of detail must be troubling especially as he plans to go forward with an Agency Shop where all 700 Deputy District Attorneys in grades I through IV will each be forced to give the ADDA $900 a year; that's a total of $630,000 a year. Perhaps that is the "alternative remedy" of which he speaks?
There can be little doubt that many will see the loss of this lawsuit and appeal as a costly, even reckless, mistake. It is notable that President Seligman apparently even failed to properly introduce an affidavit opposing the award of attorney fees, the Met News reporting that President "Seligman had submitted an affidavit containing his allegations in opposing Burke’s request for attorney fees, but [Judge] Chalfant said he could not consider the document since it was not properly before him."
Not properly before him? That's also quite a mistake.
As always, the Los Angeles Dragnet will be happy to publish President Seligman's response.